KABUL -- Staff members of Radio Begum, a radio station that broadcasts the voices of women from Kabul, have vowed to continue fighting for the rights of Afghan women.
Their determination has carried them since the previous Afghan government fell in August.
Station staff fill the airwaves with programming for women, by women. They include educational shows, book readings and call-in counselling.
"We're not giving up," pledged Hamida Aman, 48, the station's founder, who grew up in Switzerland. Her family fled Afghanistan a few years after the former Soviet Union invaded their country.
"We have to show that we don't need to be scared," said Aman, who returned to Afghanistan after 2001.
"We must occupy the public sphere," she said.
'Vessel for voices'
The station was founded this year on March 8, International Women's Day, five months before the downfall of the then-government.
It continues to broadcast across Kabul and surrounding areas -- and live on Facebook.
"Begum", which has a Turkish root and means lady, was a noble title used in South Asia and Iran and is still used for married women.
"This station is a vessel for women's voices, their pain, their frustrations," Aman said.
Radio Begum has some 10 employees who used to share an office with male colleagues who worked for a youth radio station.
Now they are separated. Each gender has its own floor, and an opaque curtain has been installed in front of the women's office.
Pop music has given way to traditional songs and "quieter music", Aman said.
Nevertheless, staff members said working at the station was a "privilege", especially given that many female civil servants are barred from returning to offices.
Most public secondary schools for girls have been shut since the takeover, leading to a surge in depression and other mental health woes among girls.
But twice a day, the radio studio resembles a classroom.
When AFP visited, six girls and three boys -- all aged 13 or 14 -- pored over their books as the presenter gave an on-air lesson about social justice.
"Social justice is opposed to extremism," said the 19-year-old teacher, a journalism student until a few months ago.
Mursal, a 13-year-old girl, has been going to the studio to study since secondary schools are still closed to girls.
"My message to girls who can't go to school is to listen to our programme carefully, to use this golden chance and opportunity," she said.
"They may not have it again."
There are also on-air lessons for adults.
In one such lesson, station director Saba Chaman, 24, read the autobiography of Michelle Obama in Dari.
She is particularly proud of a show where listeners call in for psychological counselling.
In 2016, just 18% of women in Afghanistan were literate, compared to 62% of men, according to the former Education Ministry.
"Women who are illiterate are like blind people," one woman who cannot read said on air.
"When I go to the pharmacy, they give me expired medication. If I could read, they wouldn't do it."
However, the future of their radio station is uncertain, Aman said.
In September, the country's leading independent TV station, TOLOnews, reported that more than 150 outlets were shut down over restrictions or financial troubles.
Radio Begum no longer has any advertising revenue.
If it cannot make any money within the next three months, the voices of these women will disappear from the airwaves of Afghanistan, Chaman said.
"My only cause for hope at the moment is knowing that I'm doing something important in my life to help Afghan women."